`Just say whoa': judge blocks `faith-based' abstinence education.

Position:People & Events

"Abstinence-only" sex education programs that promote religion cannot be funded with tax dollars, a federal court in Louisiana has decided.

U.S. District Judge G. Thomas Porteous Jr. ruled July 25 that the Governor's Program on Abstinence (GPA) must stop awarding public funds to groups that incorporate religious messages "or otherwise advance religion in any way."

The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana filed the lawsuit in May, asserting that organizations were spending public dollars to promote religion. The state used money provided by the federal government to pay for the efforts as part of an emphasis on "abstinence-only" education included in the 1996 welfare law.

Court documents uncovered several examples of religious groups using tax dollars to advance their faith viewpoint. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Lafayette, for example, received $46,000 in GPA funds to operate a program called "God's Gift of Life." Another group, called "Just Say `Whoa,'" used nearly $30,000 in taxpayer money to put on skits at junior and senior high schools featuring a character called "Bible Guy" who advised, "As Christians, our bodies belong to the Lord, not to us. God wants more for you than a one-night stand."

One organization, the Southwest Louisiana Area Health Education Center, went so far as to use $750 in tax funds to purchase Bibles. Another group, Rapides Station Community Ministries, bragged in its annual report that it had spent $20,000 in GPA funds to use the story of the virgin birth of Jesus "to make it apparent that God's desire...

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